About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A closer look at Dark-eyed Juncos

Get to know your birds before the Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

Dark-eyed Junco male by Simon Pierre Barrette
Dark-eyed Juncos have a slate colored head, back, tail and throat and a white belly. Right before they perch or when they face another bird, they raise and fan their tails, flashing white outer tail feathers.

It is common to see juncos hopping under Michigan feeders in the winter first thing in the morning and right before sunset. They are a very social birds after nesting is complete during the autumn and winter months. Winter flocks tend to be small, typically 15 to 25 individuals.
You’ll see Dark-eyed juncos wintering in the same area year after year. The flock stays in an area roughly 10 to 12 acres in size, but not all members of the flock are together all of the time.

There is a social hierarchy within the winter flocks. Males tend to be dominant over females and adults are dominant over the younger birds. Because males are dominant over females in winter flocks, females have less access to food. Therefore, they do not fair well in flocks composed of many males. Females tend to winter farther south away from the males.

Dark-eyed Junco female by Simon Pierre Barrette
Males need to risk harsh winters in Michigan in order to be closer to their breeding grounds. Females do not need to compete for territories in the spring and can take their time returning from southern states. The younger males winter the farthest north and must work hard to claim a breeding spot in early spring.

Juncos, like many other members of the sparrow family, eat a variety of insects and seeds mainly on the ground. What seeds they prefer can differ across the country.

Black oil sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract juncos to tray or ground bird feeders. You’ll also see the juncos scratching for grass seeds or insects in leaf litter and pine needles.

Related Articles:
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://goo.gl/Bc2uGD
- Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
- What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/puRjIr
- Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/nURO99
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/pwEqIz

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